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James Labrie - Elements Of Persuasion CD (album) cover


James Labrie


Progressive Metal

3.52 | 139 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars I've had this CD for a couple years now, and in that time I've decided that it's safe to say that this is a very good album, featuring some wonderful tracks. Originally, I bought this only for LaBrie's vocals, and even then I was skeptical of whether I'd like it. The 30 second audio clips I heard on the internet didn't really wow me, and I even thought that James was making a mistake by bringing in an entirely new lineup to perform on the album. It seemed like a very risky move in comparison to the not-very- unlike-Dream Theater Liquid Tension Experiment albums on which 3 of the 4 members are from Dream Theater. However, the musicians LaBrie recruited for this project are astounding. Marco Sfgoli absolutely blew me away the first time I put this disc in, and Matt Guillory provides nice keyboard work on top of that. Mike Mangini I had already heard of and knew he was an excellent drummer, but the other three memebers totally wowed me.

And let me not forget LaBrie. After the underwhelming Train of Thought and Live at Budokan releases, I thought James was never going to recover from his going on 10 year old vocal chord injury. However, I have total confidence in saying that James' vocals on Elements of Persuasion are the best he's done since Awake. Still not perfect, but definitely in the same league as Images and Words and Awake. A lot of this has to do with the songwriting as well. Although James' vocal injury definitely hampered him, I believe that part of the reason why he never sounded as good after Awake is because Dream Theater took over the vocal melody writing process. The reason I think this is because the vocal melodies here sound so much more like the ones on Images and Words and Awake than any of Dream Theater's records after those. The melodies are generally higher and in the range where I believe James thrives the most. Examples of this range are found in the chorus of Pretender and the second verse of In Too Deep, though not exclusively. Getting back on topic, James sounds very good on this album overall, both in upper and lower range and in powerful and soft vocals. Overall, if the first half of the album were stronger, this would be a five star album for sure. As much as I'd like to give it five stars, I just can't bring myself to do that. It just doesn't have quite enough to get over that hurdle.

The albums begins with Crucify, which used to be my favorite song, but now I find it a bit repetitive and the original catchyness is gone. It is still a pretty good song though, with a nice heavy mood and nice tempo changes that make for a good opener. Nice chorus vocals although a little on the shrieky end. Great drumming during the little interlude/break as well. Decent guitar solo although nothing near Sfgoli's best on the album. 8/10

Alone is a song that gets a lot of scrutiny from the "prog is holier than thou" purebloods due to its "Linkin' Park"-like style. While I do agree that the turntable scratches are kind of unnecessary and annoying, the rest of the song is very good, and it is one of my favorites. The guitar soloing in the middle of the song is definitely the highlight here though, although the vocal melody is pretty nice as well. Great drumming once again. 9/10

Freaks is a nice heavy piece, reminiscent of a Train of Thought song only with lots of keyboard programming throughout and no growl on the vocals. A decent track but not as good as the first two. 7/10

Invisible is another slower more heavy song. The same style as Freaks sort of, but better written. Keyboards show off with more programming and some backing chords as well. As the album goes on, the keyboards become more and more prominent, which is a very good thing because Guillory has quite a knack for them. 8/10

Lost is a short but interesting song. The softer and lighter feel is a nice contrast to the last two songs' doomy heavyness. Piano is the focal point on this song, but the vocals, keyboard chords, and ethereal guitar part fill in the space for a very nice mood. One of the albums' best songs. 10/10

Undecided is sort of like Korn meets Usher in the beginning, but then it changes into Korn meets James LaBrie, which is sort of odd to say the least. The vocal line is pretty good, but the lyrics are controvertial and the music doesn't do much to help things. Overall a repetitive song with some good moments. The end of the song makes up for the weak beginning. 6/10

Smashed is the next ballad of the album, featuring piano, keyboard chords, and soft vocals much like Lost. The big difference here is the slow tempo and inventive drum work. Very nice verse and chorus, and the blusey piano moments are simply great. The song sort of climaxes in the middle, although never really wanders away from the slow moody style. One of the album's highlights for sure. 10/10

Pretender takes the slow tempo from Smashed and supercharges it. Sfgoli gets back in the groove here, performing great guitar work both in the verses and in a superb solo. The verse melody might be found annoying by some, but I personally really like it. You'll have to make the call yourself on this one. Vocal melody after the guitar solo is great. Another great song and a highlight of the album for sure. 10/10

Slightly Out of Reach is the best ballad on the album and quite possibly the best song as well. Where Smashed gets a little long-winded with the same idea, Slightly Out of Reach keeps everything interesting, contrasting soft and strong vocals along with piano and guitar. This song also has one of the best if not the best guitar solos of the entire album. Teriffic piece here. 10/10

Oblivious is pretty much a Korn song in the beginning, in fact some Korn fans I've shown the song to have even said that the riff is almost identical to an actual Korn riff. However, after the Korn-like intro, the song gets more back in line with the rest of the album's style. Piano work is found once again here, but this time in the company of heavy distortion guitar, creating a very interesting mood. LaBrie's melody enters a sort of rap-ish stage at times, much in the same vein as the rap-ish snippet in Honor Thy Father on Dream Theater's Train of Thought album. I prefer the Honor Thy Father version over this one, but the one here isn't too shabby (I actually really like the rap-ish part in Honor Thy Father). Great guitar soloing is found here once again. Although starting out rough, this song is actually very good. 8/10

In Too Deep is a very haunting and heavy piece. The second verse in which James takes the verse melody up and octave gives me chills still to this day. Probably the best song vocally on the album. Tempo changes and fluctuations in intensity are great here. LaBrie also shows off the range that should've been back in Dream Theater albums a long time ago. The middle section of the song in which James sort of rhythmically speaks the lyrics is the low point of the song, and then the end of the song as a nice little softer and almost blusey feel, although very haunting at the same time. Great piano work really makes the end, although credit must also be given to the soulful guitar playing. 10/10

Drained ends the album with a bang. If Slightly Out of Reach isn't the best song, this one has to be. It has the complete package: soft to heavy contrasts throughout, fantastic melody, energetic tempo, thought-provoking lyrics, great performances by every musician, and a fabulous piano and vocal break in the middle preluding a fantastic guitar solo. With a powerful finish to the song, Elements of Persuasion is complete. 10/10

KansasRushDream | 4/5 |


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